WITS grades 7-9

Lesley Choyce

Lesley teaches part-time at Dalhousie University, runs Pottersfield Press and has published over 86 books for adults and kids. His Young Adult novels concern things like skateboarding, surfing, racism, environmental issues, organ transplants, and rock bands. Lesley surfs year round in the North Atlantic and is considered the father of transcendental wood-splitting. He’s worked as a rehab counsellor, a freight hauler, a corn farmer, a janitor, a journalist, a lead guitarist, a newspaper boy and a well-digger. He lives at Lawrencetown Beach overlooking the ocean. He also hosts a nationally syndicated TV talk show on Vision TV. His recent novel, Cold Clear Morning, is currently being developed as a feature length movie. In 2002, Goose Lane Editions published Choyce’s best-selling circumferential history book, The Coasts of Canada. That same year, his animal epic film, The Skunk Whisperer, was broadcast across Canada and heralded at the Maine International Film Festival. Along with the Surf Poets, he has released two poetry/music albums, Long Lost Planet and Sea Level.

To read excerpts from Lesley’s books and download free samples of his music, visit www.lesleychoyce.com.

Jan L. Coates

Jan Coates lives in Wolfville, NS with her husband and their Golden Irish, Charlie. She has two married children (sadly in Ontario) and loves visiting schools through the Writers in the Schools (WITS) program. Jan’s interest in writing for children grew out of her own love of words and stories and a passion for helping kids become lifelong readers and writers.

In her free time, Jan can be found on the badminton court, travelling, at the gym, the cottage, or Frenchy’s. Her first picture book, Rainbows in the Dark (Second Story Press, 2005) has been translated into Spanish, Catalan, and Braille, with Korean and Brazilian rights also sold. She has also written eighteen ESL illustrated chapter books for Caramel Tree, a Korean-based English Language School publisher.

Her debut novel, A Hare in the Elephant’s Trunk (Red Deer Press, 2010), was a finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award (Children’s Text) in 2011, as well as an Ann Connor Brimer Award finalist. She has also written five middle grade novels; The Hermit (Nimbus, 2020); Say What You Mean (Nevermore, 2019); Talking to the Moon (Red Deer, 2018),The Power of Harmony (Red Deer, 2013), also a Brimer finalist, and Rocket Man, a YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers  (Red Deer, 2014). Jan’s picture books include: Dancing with Daisy (Running the Goat, 2019); Karissa & Felix (self-published, as both author and illustrator, 2019);  A Halifax Time-Travelling Tune (Nimbus, 2018), Sky Pig (Pajama Press, 2016), The King of Keji (Nimbus, 2015), and Rainbows in the Dark (Second Story Press, 2005). Her current passion (other than learning to illustrate and creating soul smiles, her greeting cards) is writing a work of creative non-fiction for young readers about Canadian landscape painter (and all-around interesting person) Doris McCarthy (1910 – 2010). Forthcoming books in 2022 include: “Anna Maria & Maestro Vivaldi” (Red Deer Press) and “The Pocket Pig” – both author/illustrator  (Pandamonium Publishing House).

Don Aker

A former high school teacher, literacy mentor, and university instructor, Don Aker fell into writing in 1988 after attending the Martha’s Vineyard Summer Writing Workshops, where instructors encouraged participants to write with their students. Encouraged by winning the short fiction and nonfiction categories of the 1989 and 1990 WFNS Atlantic Writing Competitions as well as Canadian Living’s 1990 National Literary Competition, Don went on to publish numerous stories and articles and has written more than 20 books.

Because he taught hundreds of teenagers during his teaching career, it isn’t surprising that young adults are the focus of most of his work. What subjects does he choose to write about? “Things that bother me, that don’t go away,” he says. For example, Don wrote his first novel after a student shared with him that she was being physically abused by her father. Of Things Not Seen tells the story of sixteen-year-old Ben Corbett, who, along with his mother, is physically abused by his domineering stepfather. Besides domestic violence, Don’s novels have focused on peer pressure, bullying, youth crime, suicide, sexuality, teen gambling, and a variety of other social issues. However, he is quick to point out that the strongest stories are never about issues or events–“They’re about how characters are affected by those issues and events.”

Don holds a Master of Education from Acadia University and, besides working as an educator and writer, he has been a freelance reviewer and consultant for various educational publishers, including Nelson Education, Pembroke Publishers, and Pearson Education. He has written several books for classroom use, among them Hitting the Mark: Assessment Tools for Teachers (Pembroke, 1995) and a series of language arts texts for grades 8 to 11 (Nelson Education), and he has had articles and fiction published in The International Journal of Reading, Quill & Quire, Books in Canada, Canadian Living, The Toronto Star, Our Family Magazine, The Pottersfield Portfolio, Dandelion Magazine, The Chronicle Herald, and various anthologies.

The father of two daughters, Don lives with his wife in Bedford.

Chris Benjamin

Chris Benjamin is a freelance journalist and an author of fiction and non-fiction. He is currently the Managing Editor of Atlantic Books Today magazine.

His collection of short stories, Boy With a Problem, was shortlisted for the Alistair MacLeod Prize for Short Fiction. His nonfiction book, Indian School Road: Legacies of the Shubenacadie Residential School, won the Dave Greber Freelance Book Prize before being published, was listed by librarians as a Book of Influence, and recently became a Nova Scotia bestseller.

His previous book, Eco-Innovators: Sustainability in Atlantic Canada, won the 2012 Best Atlantic-Published Book Award and was a finalist for the Richardson Non-Fiction Prize. A series of short video documentaries has been made based on the book.

Chris’ novel, Drive-by Saviours, won the H.R. Percy Prize, was longlisted for a ReLit Prize and made the CBC Canada Reads Top Essential Books List.

Chris has written for a long list of magazines and newspapers in Canada and the United States. A few highlights include The Globe and Mail, Science Friday, Z Magazine, Saltscapes, Halifax Magazine, Progress Magazine, and The Coast.

Hugh R. MacDonald

Hugh R. MacDonald is a writer of fiction, and a singer/songwriter. Hugh has been a member of the Writers Union of Canada and the Writers Federation of Nova Scotia (WFNS) for many years. His YA novel, Trapper Boy was published by Cape Breton University Press, and the sequel entitled Us and Them waas released in October 2016. Hugh is a graduate of Cape Breton University, and worked in the human services field for 25 plus years, and is now happily retired.

September 2017 — “Trapper Boy” was included in the Reading Nova Scotia publication of “150 Books of Influence” in Nova Scotia–see the link below, which will redirect you to the site.  You may have to copy and paste the link.

https://www.nsla.ns.ca/150-books-of-influence

Hugh’s song, “Trapper Boy,” that he wrote prior to the novel of the same name, has been added to the repertoire of the world famous Men of the Deeps, and was included on their 50th Anniversary Compilation CD, which was released in April 2016. Hugh’s version of his song, “Trapper Boy” can be found here: https//www.youtube.com/watch?v=37GBaudAgZA&t=4s

Hugh’s song “A Cape Breton Lament” (written and performed by Hugh) was included on the CD Cape Breton Songs of Steel, Coal and Protest, produced by Dr. Richard MacKinnon (Cape Breton University). See the Youtube link here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MZpCDIqbZ20.

Trapper Boy was selected by Dr. Patrick Howard of Cape Breton University’s Education Department as a novel around which to develop a Teacher Resource. The resource is currently available at no charge for teachers using Trapper Boy.

Hugh is a member of the Writers in the Schools (WITS) program through WFNS. Hugh enjoys going into schools to meet with young people and sharing his passion for writing. His presentation includes readings from his work, using his songs and his videos to share thoughts on his writing process, and encouraging young people to try their own hand at writing. WITS grade levels P-12.

Andre Fenton

Andre Fenton is an award-winning African Nova Scotian author, spoken-word artist, and arts educator who has represented Halifax at seven national poetry festivals across Canada. He was the 2015 recipient of The Spirit of The Slam Award. Andre is an author of two YA novels, Worthy of Love, which won bronze in The Coast Best of, and was selected for In The Margins annual Fiction Recommendation List to highlight best fiction and non-fiction titles focused on youth populations living in marginalized existences. He is also the author of ANNAKA that was shortlisted for the Ann Connor Brimer Award for Atlantic Canadian Children’s Literature in the 2021 Atlantic Book Awards. Through the lens of fiction and poetry, Andre has facilitated workshops at over 30 schools across Nova Scotia helping young writers and performers develop their craft. He is currently working on his third novel, The Summer Between Us, and a feature screenplay. Andre is based in Halifax, Nova Scotia

Pauline Dakin

I am a journalist who started my career in print with The Telegraph Journal in Saint John, NB and spent most of my career as a health reporter with CBC National News and as the host of the documentary program Atlantic Voice at CBC Nova Scotia. I now teach in the School of Journalism at the University of King’s College in Halifax.

Run, Hide, Repeat: A Memoir of a Fugitive Childhood (Viking/Penguin Random House Canada: 2017) is my first book. It won the 2018 Edna Staebler Award for Creative Non-Fiction. It was also named one of the best 100 books of 2017 by The Globe and Mail, and was shortlisted for the BC Book Prize, the Evelyn Richardson Non-Fiction Award, the Margaret and John Savage First Book Award – Non-Fiction.

As part of the book tour to support the launch of Run, Hide, Repeat I was able to do readings across the country.

I am on Twitter at @paulinedakin and look forward to connecting!

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